by Dina Zavrski-Makaric
When we migrate from one country to another we are often very soon faced with the difficulties of starting to create our new life in the new surroundings. This quest can be easier for some, and harder for others. We are all unique in how we go about living our lives; however, most of us are likely to fall into the trap of neglecting our social life for the sake of everyday tasks. What we also often forget is that we need to nurture our exploratory side (which brought us to this new place in the first place!), and that holidays and overseas visitors are not the only time when we should go and discover what our new surroundings have to offer.When you relocate to Melbourne, you will join the 3,662,320 other people living in this, Australia’s second largest, city, and the capital of Victoria. Melbourne has a reputation for being the most refined, sophisticated and ‘European’ city in the country. With its lively energy, huge choice of restaurants, cafes and bars, funky boutiques, unbeatable galleries, numerous landscaped parks, and village-like inner suburbs, each with its own special character, you will not be short of ideas for what to do after a long day at work, or on a weekend.
In 2002 and again in 2004 The Economist has ranked Melbourne first in a survey of The World’s Most Livable Cities on the basis of its cultural attributes, climate, cost of living, and social conditions.
Melbourne is about lifestyle, and Melburnians embrace three things in particular: sport (Australian Rules football), fashion and festivals.
With a wide variety of places to go and see, it is hard to give specific advice. Whether on your own, with a partner or with a family, there are plenty of things and places to explore. It is important that you create some spare time after work and on the weekends. It is not uncommon that people come to a new city and don’t see much of it, or experience what it has to offer, unless they get overseas visitors. Don’t let this happen to you, because a life without knowing and experiencing where you live is only half a life.
With its outstanding network of parks and gardens, many of which are European in influence and planting, Melbourne is often referred to as Australia’s garden city, and Victoria as the Garden State. The City’s Carlton Gardens and the Royal Exhibition Building have received international acclaim being inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004.
In St. George’s Road North Fitzroy you’ll find the Edinburgh Gardens. Created in the 19th Century, complete with European elm trees, you can enjoy yourself in a mixture of open space, barbecue area and sports ground, with basketball and tennis courts, skateboard bowl, bowling grass and bocce track.
Melbourne’s newest park alongside the Yarra River, the Birrarung Marr, modern in style and form, is scene to some of the city’s best festivals and events.
A stroll in The Royal Botanic Gardens, only ten minutes from the CBD, will open up the world of more than 51,000 individual plants, representing more than 12,000 different species, and rich native wildlife.
Sport and Recreation
For those who require more than just ‘a walk in the park’, Melbourne offers many activities. Whether you are an amateur, looking for professional competition, or wanting some family recreation, there are hundreds of clubs, courts and sports grounds that cater for basketball, football, netball, tennis, hockey and athletics. You can go for a swim at the historic Melbourne City Baths, or jog on one of the most beautiful jogging tracks in Australia, the Tan Track, which skirts the boundaries of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Rowing on the picturesque Yarra River is just another addition to the abundance of options. For those who love elite sport, there is an opportunity to indulge in the Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park at the end of March.
Bars and Nightclubs
For those with enough energy and not yet family responsibilities, there is an ever-increasing number of trendy clubs and bars, ideal places for friendly drinking and socialising. It’s said that Melbourne hosts Australia’s largest concentration of live music venues, with local and international bands covering everything from grunge rock and techno to jazz, blues and the avant-garde. You can see the latest Hollywood blockbuster, catch a cabaret show featuring one of Melbourne’s comedy stalwarts or visit the Crown Entertainment Complex, home to Australia’s largest casino, cinemas, discos and designer stores.
Melbourne contains all sorts of restaurants, pubs, bars, and nightclubs. From the ever-present Irish pubs to traditional Aussie hotels, through upmarket wine bars, jazz and dance venues on Bennetts Lane and fashionable nightclubs, often hidden away down obscure grungy alleys, and massive pickup joints (of which The Metro on Bourke Street is perhaps the biggest).
The restaurants have their own bars, particularly Brunswick Street, some of which are the best rock venues in Melbourne. King Street, on the southern side of the CBD, was traditionally a nightclub strip and still hosts several, but many are now exotic dancing venues. Chapel Street, Prahran, is perhaps the trendiest, most upmarket and most expensive nightlife strip. Another area for music lovers is St Kilda, the home of several huge music venues including the famous Esplanade Hotel, the Prince of Wales, and The Palace.
Numerous underground bars and sidewalk cafes popped up as a response to the growth of Melbourne’s many city-residents.
For those of us who like to keep up with European fashion styles and sophistication – Melbourne is the place. There are innumerable clothing shops for every budget, though bargain hunters may wish to try the outlet stores in Bridge Road, Richmond and Smith Street, Fitzroy.
For serious ‘fashion indulgers’, here are some of the most popular shopping places :
– Melbourne Central: spanning almost two city blocks, it includes a mix of leading Australian and international labels offering a range of quality designer labels and cutting-edge street wear. – QV – Melbourne’s new inner city laneway precinct featuring a dynamic mix of high-end fashion and lifestyle retailers and a European style piazza with cafes, restaurants and bars. – GPO – The historic General Post Office (GPO) reopened in August 2004. Covering an entire city block, it houses more than 60 stores that span the spectrum of the Melbourne shopping experience.
Melbourne is home to an exceptional collection of world-class museums, many hosting national displays or world-renowned exhibits. There are theatres, ballets, classical music scene and opera events that host leading national and international arts companies all year round.
You can visit the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and The Victorian Arts Centre, home to theatre, opera, contemporary and classical music, ballet and visual arts.
Nearby Federation Square houses The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, the first major gallery devoted to Australian art.
The National Gallery of Victoria International on St Kilda Road displays collections of European, Asian, Oceanic and American Art on four levels.
Only 15 minutes from the Melbourne CBD is The Heide Museum of Modern Art, the birthplace of Australian Modernism, displaying a permanent collection of many works of Australian modern artists.
A very good place to start your Melbourne exploration and gather information is the Newcomers Network (www.newcomersnetwork.com). The NN is an online guide for people who have moved or are planning to move to Australia, Melbourne in particular. All the resources from government, non-government and private organizations can be accessed free of charge or registration. In addition to offering online information, the NN also organises monthly ‘Welcome to Melbourne’ events, hosted by its founder Sue Ellson. The event is held on the second Sunday of every month, at the Federation Square Visitor Information Centre, on the South Eastern corner of the Flinders Street and St Kilda Road/Swanston Street intersection. This informal social gathering has been designed to help newcomers meet other people who have moved to Melbourne, and exchange experiences and information.
Melbourne was the capital city of Australia from 1901 until 1927. Melbourne has the largest stand of European Elm Trees in the world – including Europe.